Council hears update on River District
By Craig Howard
While the frozen conditions of mid-winter may not translate into peak construction time in Liberty Lake, the city's north side appears to be on an encouraging schedule for development according to the area's leading builder.
Such was the takeaway at Tuesday night's Liberty Lake City Council meeting as Kevin Schneidmiller, land manager for Greenstone Homes, provided the governing board with an update on the buildout of the River District, the ambitious 650-acre mixed use area that many say represents the future of Spokane County's easternmost jurisdiction.
Schneidmiller's presentation addressed the importance of establishing the necessary infrastructure for the burgeoning project, including a new sewer lift station. A temporary lift station serving the area from Bitterroot Street to Harvard Road is now at capacity, Scheidmilller said.
Greenstone has had ongoing discussions with the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District about plans for additional water and sewer infrastructure, Schneidmiller added. He told council that the installation of the lift station and additional street paving will be keys to generating interest in the River District from a commercial standpoint.
"It's normal that commercial activity lags behind residential growth," he said. "They want to see the infrastructure in place."
Schneidmiller said the completion of Harvest Parkway last fall represented a literal and symbolic inroad into the heart of the River District's retail area known as Telido Station. The pending street construction agenda also includes the extension of both Indiana and Harvard roads. Greenstone will make a decision on the paving of Indiana from Bitterroot to Harvard in the next 90 days.
Meanwhile, the River District specific area plan, described by city officials as a "mini-development code" for the project, continues to "function very well," according to Schneidmiller.
"We've had no issues with the SAP," he said.
Schneidmiller did say Greenstone would like to discuss the future of parks and open space in the River District with the city with a goal of solidifying plans within the next 18 months. He said it would be important to clarify if developing sites like West Riverview Park would be established as public or private venues. If the city did have a stake in such properties, council would need to look at maintenance and long-term costs, Schneidmiller advised.
"We look forward to having those discussions sooner than later," Schneidmiller said.
While greenspace development will be integral in the growth of the River District, Greenstone is also looking at keeping some of the natural areas in place.
"Some of that will stay native along the river and not be highly developed," Schneidmiller said.
The River District added 53 residential units last year. Schneidmiller said buildout of the area could mean between 2,000 and 2,500 new dwellings by 2040.
In a related discussion, City Administrator Katy Allen provided council with an overview of pending amendments to the Harvard Road Mitigation Fund, established in 1996 as a means for landowners and developers to offset the impact of traffic related to new construction. Allen noted that the fund, implemented five years before the incorporation of Liberty Lake, does not recognize current municipal boundaries nor pricing for traffic calming mechanisms like roundabouts and signals.
"Spokane County managed this before Liberty Lake took over in 2001," Allen said. "The original plan includes the area south of Sprague and the River District is outside of the boundary."
The city collected $110,000 from developers for the Harvard Road Mitigation Fund in 2013. Projects like the pedestrian bridge and Harvard Road roundabout have benefitted from the fund in the past. Allen said City Engineer Andrew Staples is working on cost estimates for future traffic mitigation projects that will be part of a public hearing on the proposed amendments at the next council meeting on Feb. 18.
"What we need to do is work through the numbers and reach out to the development community," Allen said.
In other city news:
• Allen and Mayor Steve Peterson visited Olympia as part of the Greater Spokane Inc. legislative forum Jan. 22-24. Allen said Liberty Lake's central message to lawmakers revolved around improvements to Interstate 90 from Barker Road to the Idaho state line. "We didn't come back with a barrel full of money, but the good news is that they heard us," Allen said. The short session in the state capital has been characterized by "a very competitive" pursuit of funds from many factions, Allen added. Liberty Lake's lobbying for I-90 upgrades "boils down to jobs, commerce and economic development," Allen said.
• In response to a citizen comment about public art at the last council meeting, Allen recommended that the council consider setting aside funds for art in the next municipal budget and organize a committee "to identify public art projects."
• Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Griffin is spearheading a discussion with the Friends of Pavillion Park involving an idea to combine the community's traditional July 4 celebration with the city-sponsored "Liberty Lake Days."
• Allen provided an update on snow and ice removal, saying the city responded to several phone calls on Tuesday regarding slippery conditions on Molter and Mission. In addition to de-icing on both roads, Allen said crews spread a sandy-like substance in other slick areas that will help improve treading for motorists and speed up thawing.
• A public hearing on the city's six-month moratorium regarding the growth, processing and sale of marijuana associated with Initiative 502 is set for Feb. 18 at City Hall. Those wishing to comment can appear at the meeting or include feedback on the city's website.
• LLSWD Commissioner Tom Agnew told council that Procter and Gamble has announced plans to eliminate all phosphorous from its laundry detergents over the next two years. LLSWD was the first elected entity in the U.S. to implement a phosphates ban in detergents in 1987, citing the harm inflicted on aquatic life. The district also led the way in calling for the use of phosphorous-free dishwashing detergent.
• Finance Director R.J. Stevenson gave an official year-end budget report, highlighted by sales tax revenue that exceeded projections by $190,000 in 2013. Building permit income was up $200,000 over expectations while Trailhead at Liberty Lake brought in $80,000 more than anticipated last year.
• Council unanimously approved Mayor Peterson to sign a task order with Welch Comer Engineers for design services on the Town Square Park project as well as all phases of the Appleway Avenue Beautification and Rehabilitation project.
• Council unanimously approved Peterson's appointment of Tricia Morgan to the Liberty Lake Municipal Library Board of Trustees.